Aixo era y no era

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Aixo era y no era

Reading Paul Ricoeur’s “The Metaphoric Process as Cognition, Imagination, and Feeling” triggered more weird thoughts. A return to STC “to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith” is in order. Imagination was, in Coleridge’s view an incredible power which combines things to constitute our world. Life itself was a force, pressing outward towards God with a power that creates a tenuous stasis, where the primary imagination synthesizes the world we cognize. His world view was built on faith, and it seems natural that he would also summon faith as a metaphor for poetic creation. Today, though, I started thinking about the suspension.

Suspension can be read as a cessation of activity. Or, more scientifically, it can be the implication of great motion, as particles are swirled about, suspended in solution. Without motion, the particles settle out in stratified layers underneath. Hence, the act of poetic faith, may also be read not as total belief but as a Brownian motion of particles, set into play through the disruption of disbelief. It remains to determine how to best read “shadows”— there is the Platonic bias, of course, against (re)presentation— but there is also the possibility of reading in these shadows, relations with the objects that cast them.

Ricoeur argues for a constitutive function in metaphor. Teasing out Richard’s tenor and vehicle, Ricoeur pushes these characteristics into the labels of quasi-verbal and quasi-imagistic function. Shadows, viewed as quasi-imagistic quantity are flat, two-dimensional, and opaque. Viewed quasi-verbally, shadows are, as in Hume’s conception of imagination, faint impressions of reality. However, thinking of Coleridge’s synthetic world view, shadows are indeed constitutive as they preserve the contour, although distorted, of a real and palpable world. Relations remain intact.

The quasi-verbal character of metaphors is described by Ricoeur as predicative assimilation. This is the function of proportional metaphors, metaphors by analogy which have little in the way of quasi-imagistic content. Humans communicate by comparison with other known relations (predicates), and these comparisons become assimilated in the synthetic powers of the imagination. We constitute new relations from preexisting ones, at the cerebral level.

The quasi-imagistic character of metaphors is instead a more sensual relation. We feel physically, a connection with the image that has been planted in our consciousness. Ricoeur feels that there is not a direct connection between these conflicting levels of metaphor, but instead a structural analogy between them. Though metaphor is indeed a split reference, the component parts are not extrinsic to the semantic function of metaphor, but intrinsic.

The deep feeling lost in the Platonic shadow is a fundamental part of the construction and identification that all humans feel through metaphor. Desire cannot be removed from meaning, in order to explain it. Shadows both are and are not. Reproduction and repetition changes things, but perhaps some structural analogies remain intact.

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This page contains a single entry by Jeff Ward published on June 27, 2002 6:16 PM.

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